Mastering the Art of Running – Decoding Common Form Mistakes

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Cross Training For Runners
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Written by :

David Dack

Ever thought about how simple running seems? I mean, we’ve got legs designed for it, right? It’s just putting one foot in front of the other at a faster pace.

But here’s the twist – not everyone gets it right.

Running might be as natural as breathing, but nailing that perfect technique is a whole different story, especially for beginners who are just taking their first steps into the world of running. Let’s unravel the mysteries of proper running form together!”

The Importance of Proper Running Form

Alright, let’s talk about why nailing that proper form is absolutely essential.

Avoid the Pain

Picture this: You’re out for a run, feeling the wind in your hair, the rhythm in your stride, and suddenly, ouch! A sharp pain shoots up your leg. Proper form can be your knight in shining armor against these kinds of painful surprises.

Performance Boost

Ever wanted to improve your running times? Proper form can help you do just that. When your body moves efficiently, you waste less energy, allowing you to go faster, longer, and stronger.

Injury Prevention

Nobody wants to be sidelined by injuries. Proper form can reduce the risk of overuse injuries and keep you on the road or trail consistently. Trust me, staying injury-free is a runner’s dream.

The Joy of Running

When you run with proper form, it’s like a dance. Each step feels smooth, controlled, and graceful. It’s not just about being injury-free; it’s about enjoying every moment of your run.

Enter Running Form Mistakes

Today, I’m going to share with you three of the most common form mistakes I see runners make, along with a few practical tips on how to fix them for good.

I have already written extensively about proper running form.

You can check my full guide here.

In the meantime, keep on reading and discover whether you are guilty of breaking some of these running form laws.

Mistake #.1 Slow Cadence

Let’s dive deeper into the first common running form mistake – a slow cadence.

Imagine your cadence as the rhythm of your run. It’s not just a random number; it’s a vital component of your running efficiency and overall performance. Think of it as the beat to which your feet should dance.

Now, the magic number often talked about is around 180 steps per minute. That’s how many times your feet should touch the ground in a minute for optimal efficiency. This cadence reduces stress on your muscles and minimizes the impact on your bones and joints.

But here’s where many runners go wrong: they try to increase their cadence by taking longer strides. That’s not the way to do it! In fact, it’s a big mistake.

So, how do you fix this?

Step 1: Find Your Starting Point

Start by figuring out your current cadence. It’s simple. Run at your natural pace for 30 seconds, count how many times your feet hit the ground, and then double that number to get your steps per minute. For example, if you counted 80 steps in 30 seconds, that’s about 160 steps per minute.

Step 2: Gradual Progress

Now, here’s the plan: gradually increase your cadence by 5 to 10 steps per minute each week. Focus on increasing your turnover without trying to lengthen your strides. Remember, shorter, quicker steps are the key.

Step 3: Metronome Magic

You can also enlist the help of a metronome set to 180 beats per minute. Try to match your steps to the metronome’s beat. It’s like a dance with your feet and the metronome’s rhythm.

Step 4: Agility Ladder Fun

Another fun way to work on your cadence and footwork is to use an agility ladder. This can help you improve your form and coordination.

Mistake #2: Unrelaxed Upper Body

Picture yourself in slow motion – a world-class sprinter, a marathoner gliding effortlessly, or an elite athlete in between. What do you see? Relaxed faces, shoulders loose, and arms moving gracefully.

Running with a relaxed upper body might sound like a simple concept, but it’s often easier said than done. Tension can be an energy thief, making your workouts less enjoyable and hampering your performance. So, let’s talk about how to stay chill while running.

Release the Tension:

First off, become aware of any signs of strain or tension during your run and consciously release it. Tension is often an unconscious process, but relaxation is a conscious choice.

Quick Loosening Exercises:

Practice quick loosening exercises for key areas – your back, shoulders, arms, and neck. For example, at every mile marker or when you feel tension creeping up, raise your shoulders to your ears in an exaggerated manner for 5 to 10 seconds, then let them drop back down into a relaxed position. Do the same with your arms. Lift them and then return them to their ideal, relaxed position.

The Loose Fist and 90-Degree Rule:

To keep your arms and hands relaxed, imagine holding a delicate butterfly or an egg that you don’t want to crush. Maintain a loose fist, and your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle. This angle should stay consistent during your backswing; otherwise, you’re wasting precious energy.

Mistake #3: Heel Striking

Ah, the heel strike – the ongoing debate in the running world! Let’s dive into this running form mistake that’s a hot topic among runners.

Heel Striking Explained:

Heel striking is when your feet land heel-first in front of your hips, ahead of your body’s center of gravity. It’s like putting on the brakes with each step, wasting precious energy and potentially causing discomfort and injuries.

Why Heel Striking Might Be an Issue:

  • Slow Cadence: Heel striking is often associated with a slow cadence (see mistake #1). Faster cadence is generally more efficient.
  • Inefficient: Landing on your heels in front of your body’s center of gravity is inefficient and can hinder your running performance.
  • Stress and Injuries: Heel striking can put extra stress on muscles and joints, potentially leading to various aches, pains, and overuse injuries.

The Fix:

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for foot strike, here are some general guidelines to help improve your form:

  • Quiet Feet: Running should be relatively quiet. If your footsteps are loud, you might be a heel striker.
  • Mid-Foot Landing: Aim to land mid-foot or on the ball of your foot, with your feet under your body’s center of gravity. Imagine running over hot coals to help keep your steps quick and light.
  • Avoid Forward Lunging: Be mindful not to lunge too far forward with your leading foot, especially when running downhill.
  • Practice Drills: Incorporate drills like running backward, skipping, butt kicks, high knees, and agility ladder exercises into your routine. These drills can help you practice a mid-foot landing and improve your overall running form.
  • Dynamic Warm-Up: Include these drills in your dynamic warm-up routine before heading out for your run.

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